Malaria is a global killer; according to the world health organization, there were at least 215 million malarial patients infected worldwide, with nearly half a million deaths from malaria. It has been tagged as one of the worst pandemics and a serious health threat to all life on this planet, but sadly, it seems that the Anopheles mosquitoes, and especially the Plasmodium parasites have had us beat, for now, anyway. This is why it is important that we take a closer look at the life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite so that we can understand how it is passed from the mosquito to the human host and what takes place after.
- The first stage: It should be pointed out that the first stage takes place when a mosquito bites a malaria-infected person or animal. The mosquito ingests gametocytes, the sexual form of the parasite as it bites into the infected host. As the gametocytes make their way into the mosquito’s gut, they mate and soon undergo meiosis and move to the midgut where they form an oocyst. It is at this point that the oocyust soon burst open releasing thousands of sporozoites which infect the mosquito’s salivary glands. And when they bite into a fresh human host, they spread on the parasite in is asexual form.
- The second stage: This is the stage where the mosquito infects the human host as it injects the sporozoites directly into the bloodstream. These quickly make their way to the human liver where they lie dormant for a period of seven to ten days. At this point, the human host feels little or no symptoms at all. Soon the parasites undergo a transformation into Merozoites and are released from the liver from where they make their way to the heart and lungs.
- The fever: As the parasites are released directly into the bloodstream, they invade the surrounding red blood cells, multiply until the cells burst. And soon, they repeat the process and start invading more red cells and each time the red cells get infected and break, the human host experiences high fever.
- Third stage: Soon some of the merozoites, instead of taking part in this asexual reproduction, soon decide to develop sexual organs, becoming the male and female part of the parasite called Gametocytes. These gametocytes soon mature and as they move along the bloodstream, they are ingested by mosquitoes that bite into the infected host for a blood meal. And as they ingested the gametes, the cycle begins all over again.
This is the life cycle of Plasmodium parasite; it should be pointed out that this parasite has been around for as long as the mosquito has been around and that’s roughly 30 million years. Given this, it is not surprising that the parasite started infecting other life forms and this particular parasite shows a marked tendency to adapt to most environments, making it all the more dangerous. But with effective measures, we should be able to eliminate the Plasmodium parasite, altogether at a distant point in the future.
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